Sack Lai Mohammed, NUJ tells Buhari


Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Abuja chapter, Emmanuel Ogbeche, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

Ogbeche’s call followed the allegation by the board chairman of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ikra Aliyu Bilbis, that the minister “unilaterally” amended the broadcasting code without consulting relevant stakeholders.

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Mohammed had recently unveiled the Reviewed Broadcasting Code which saw an increase in the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to N5 million, a move stakeholders in the NBC had allegedly kicked against.

Ogbeche, in a Facebook post on Wednesday, said “Lai Mohammed needs to be sacked” by President Buhari.

The NUJ Chairman’s call also came after the NBC imposed the new N5 million fine on Nigeria Info FM, Lagos, for airing an interview where a former presidential aspirant, Obadiah Mailafia, claimed that a serving governor in northern Nigeria was a leader of the Boko Haram insurgents.

Meanwhile, Mohammed came under heavy criticism on Thursday following the regulator’s fine to Nigeria Info FM. The minister was also accused of hijacking the responsibilities of the NBC Director-General.

Former vice president and 2019 presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, in a statement by his media office, said the Revised Broadcasting Code and N5 million fine imposed on Nigeria Info were “naked attempt to gag the media in Nigeria.”

Atiku noted that:

“In many advanced democracies the world over, criminals on even wanted lists of law enforcement agencies have reached out to the media to express their opinions about the crimes that they had perpetrated and the media space was not denied to them. As a matter of fact, it seems somewhat contradictory that a country like ours, which is in the throes of national security skirmishes, would choose to shrink media access to critical information. It is not known if any society had won the war against terrorism by placing a restriction to access to information, in the way the NBC had done.

“In a particular reference to the penalty handed down to the operators of 99.3 FM Nigeria Info, we disagree wholeheartedly with the argument of the NBC that the interview that the station had with Dr. Obadiah Mailafia constitutes any infringement or if at all it exposes the station to trading in hate speech.

“Whether or not what Dr. Mailafia said on the radio station was a false claim, it is outside of the objectives of a responsible regulatory framework to sanction a radio station for a comment an individual made, more so that the personality in question, Dr. Obadiah, had been quizzed and released by law enforcement agents. If for any reason the authorities are not satisfied with his explanations, they are at liberty to prosecute him in court, but not to make a scapegoat of the media platform that provides opportunities for citizens to ventilate their views.”

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